Monday, August 15, 2011

This Thing That Has Really Been Buggin' Me....



Astroturfing is a form of advocacy often in support of a political or corporate agenda designed to give the appearance of a "grassroots" movement. The goal of such campaigns is to disguise the efforts of a political and/or commercial entity as an independent public reaction to some political entity—a politician, political group, product, service or event. The term is a derivation of AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.

For quite some time now, I've had this strange, nagging feeling that the entire province of British Columbia is being systematically covered with Astroturf.

Which is weird, I know, especially given that the local soccer team that will soon play under the $600 million dollar magic carpet was recently forced to cover its fake grass with the real thing for a day.

But, seriously....

I'm not joking.

Because this thing that has been bugging me is a vague feeling wherein I worry that everything that matters in B.C. is being coated with fake stuff meant to conceal true intentions so that the public can be easily herded into pre-determined policy-pens labelled 'Foregone Conclusions'.

Then, once the sheeple are safe inside those pens they are converted into corrals where red hot branding irons marked with slogans like 'IPP's Forever!' are suddenly be seared into the supplicant flesh so enclosed.

Or some such crazy, fever-swamped thing.


Now, anyone who has been paying attention, which I can only assume includes most of the folks that bother to stop by here occasionally, can cite numerous individual examples of this kind of astroturfing.

As can I.

But this vague thing that has been bugging me for quite awhile now came into sharp focus as I listened to the latest offering from Sean Holman's Public Eye Radio yesterday.


Well, truth be told, it had a lot to do with the fact that the Mr. Holman's Rabble Rousing panel concluded that the recent BC Hydro 'review' and the announcement of a coming Auditor General for Municipal Governments were both, essentially, misdirection plays designed to disguise hidden agendas.

Which, if correct, is really a big deal, right?

In the end, however, it was one small additional thing that brought things completely into focus for me.

You see, when I listen to PublicEye on the Podcast, as I did yesterday, I always listen to the second half of the show first to hear what the panel has to say.

Then I rewind the thing and listen to the first half for the interviews.

And in the first segment of yesterday's show Mr. Holman interviewed former Langley civic politician Jordan Bateman.

Mr. Bateman is an interesting fellow who is very involved in his local community, both in person and online as a blogger. In the latter capacity, where he is completely upfront about what he is up to, he has often served his constituents well. And I say this as someone who does not agree with many of Mr. Bateman's ideologically-driven points of view.

However, in another capacity, which is regional transportation, where Mr. Batemen has been aligned with the ruling provincial and federal political parties, it is my opinion that he has been involved in astroturfing in the past, which I wrote about in considerable detail here.

So, imagine my surprise, when I found out on Mr. Holman's program yesterday that the good Mr. Bateman is stepping down as a municipal councillor out in the valley so that he can become the regional functionary/spokesperson for the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation in British Columbia.

As a result, Mr. Bateman has now severed any and all official ties with political parties, because the CTF is 'not-affiliated' with such entities given that it is apparently nothing more than a grassroots organization.

I know this because I was recently told as much by a regionally wurlitzered piece by Natasha Jones in the Black Press' Langley Times:

...(Mr. Bateman) recently cancelled his membership in the BC Liberal Party, and ended his business association with his friend, Fort Langley-Aldergrove MLA Rich Coleman.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which is not affiliated with any political party, advocates lower taxes and smaller government and fighting government waste — "anything that affects the taxpayer's wallet.".....

Now, look, I have nothing against Mr. Bateman moving on and doing whatever he wishes to do with is life.

Heckfire, he might even become the CTF's next Jason Kenney.

But I must say that, I have a hard, if not impossible, time really thinking of the CTF as just a grassroots, non-partisan group that is interested only in things that affect 'the taxpayer's wallet'.

Case in point, on the local/regional level, pre-Mr Bateman's entering the fold, please consider, if you will, a piece from Gregory Thomas, the CTF's current federal functionary and spokesperson, that was pushed, errrrr...., published, in the Georgia Straight a couple of months ago.

In that piece the good Mr. Thomas tells Christy Clark that to improve the HST she has to be more like Stephen Harper:

...The premier needs to be bold. She faces the same challenging circumstances that destroyed the federal Progressive Conservative government of Kim Campbell in 1993: a deeply unpopular new tax and an electorate profoundly mistrustful of the party in power. Voters were willing to give Canada's first female prime minister a chance early in the campaign, polls showed her in the lead but they wanted to see a fundamental change of direction. They wanted her to prove she was the boss and prove she was different.

It was 13 years before a new Canadian leader met the test, but Stephen Harper closed the deal with Canadian voters, first by promising to cut the GST from seven percent to six percent, to five percent and then by delivering on that promise.

Bold. Savvy. And best of all, simple.

B.C. voters have had it with politicians, economists, accountants, and other people in suits telling us how the HST is too complicated for ordinary mortals to understand....

Yup, you bet Mr. Thomas.

Because I, for one, sure have had it with all those suits, pointy heads, and all that complicated stuff like tax policy.

Instead, I want plain talkin' cowboys to tell me where to go and what to think as they put the blinders on.


Which gate do I go through to get into that foregone conclusion pen where I can get my new-fangled '10% Or Bust!' logo branded into my flesh forever and/or until 2014 rolls around?

As for Mr. Harper and his cowboy-inspired GST cut from days gone by....What, precisely has our federal deficit ballooned to under his revenue-slashing watch?

And, more importantly, which massive service cuts is Mr. Harper using that deficit to justify at this very moment?



Just be honest with us astroturf layers.

That's all I'm asking so that we can make our decisions based on what you and yours really want to do instead of what you and yours are pretending to do in our best (and/or worst) interests.




Anonymous said...

Wow! Great post!

For some time now, I've had that same uneasy feeling. It's like watching a shell game. "Which shell is the pea under? Everybody watch the pea! Watch the pea!" It's only afterward you discover that while you were busy watching the pea someone has picked your pocket and made off with your wallet.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon 4:16, you have very nicely and neatly in this succinct post laid out the BC Liberals and their corporate handlers modus operandi. Having seen this play out many times over the last decade I now automatically look for the real purpose of any new policy, study, or appointment and expect it to be a lying spin at least 180 degrees away from the good of us the people they were elected to represent. SHEESH! I always appreciate your insights and the informed comments from your followers.


Norm Farrell said...

Blogger Spartikus a while ago wrote about the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF),
"They're merchants of doubt, not of intellectual integrity."

Norm Farrell wrote this,
"Ethical analysts assemble facts and draw conclusions based on objective evidence. The CTF, as demonstrated in a recent case, turns that methodology upside down. They start with the conclusion that all public programs are misguided and all government revenues are inappropriate. Their 'research' is aimed at gathering information supporting the conclusions held at the beginning.

"CTF uses faulty analysis because they are paid to market a particular point of view."

Anonymous said...

The CTF has a tendency of being a farm team for the Fed Conservatives - just google Sara MacIntyre for one. Or writing books just in the nick of time to frame elections - just google "Barbarians in the Garden City".

But the CTF was right to sue the BCTF and write said book. It sure brought some labor peace when at the 11th hour at the 11th minute they took a peace deal from then-Fin Min Carole Taylor. Also said book is a prized possession because I sure don't see the books needed on BC politics out there - sure would love to read Jenny Kwan's and Barry Penner's for starters.

That said, Jordan Bateman has been and will always be a fighter for taxpayers. Oh and a good communicator. At least now he's got a brand around him :-).

RossK said...

Troll removal done in this space.

Thanks Anons, and Norman, above.


Gregory Thomas said...

The federal public service headcount has grown by 39,000 since Stephen Harper took office, and overall spending is up over 40 per cent.

So your talk about "massive cuts" under Harper is not supported by the facts. The facts oppose your argument.

Canada's deficit has ballooned unacceptably, along with every other nation in the G-8, only less than every other nation in the G-8. And the deficit ballooned in 2009, after the meltdown in the world economy, not 2006, after Harper cut the GST.

Ouch, those stupid facts again.

RossK said...

Post majority win weigh-in....

How do things re: 'cuts' look now Mr. Thomas?